Middle School Open House

From my seat on the lunch benches at Open House,
I see him standing in the middle of his boys –
standing the way boys can stand
it, not touching but somehow touching,
thumbs in belt loops, chins tilted up,
ready for whiskers or maybe a punch.

At the benches, they pass out cups of punch
to the parents of the girls and boys.
It’s 7:00pm and 90 degrees at Open House.
I’m sticky, and under my skirt my thighs are touching.
I want to stretch and stand,
but I see him, so instead, I pick my camera up…

At the sound of the click, his eyebrows raise up,
pupils dilate, eyes dart to the other boys –
then to me. My picture hits like a sucker punch.
How dare I perceive him as touching
when we are outside of our house!
My audacity is more than he can stand.

But I have to take a stand
because even his outrage is touching.
We have microseconds with our boys
before their shoulders zoom out, their philosophies rise up,
and they are men – they stink, they punch,
they leave our arms, our house…

No. Tonight he is still the child of my house.
To prove it, I keep my camera aimed up,
look through the lens, refocus, and punch
right at the space between men and boys
even though I stand
to lose everything I am touching.

My camera clicks again, but now he’s gone – past all touching –
fifty yards away, lost in a stand
of other teenagers also betrayed by Open House,
all smiling over cups of warm punch
but probably planning how to fuck us up –
get the girls pregnant, start a heroin habit, fall in with bad boys…

I know; I’m a fool to think I can keep touching
his soft cheek, clutching his small hand, but I just can’t stand
that Open House is closing down, and my time with him is up.

Writer: Amanda Walzer is a graduate of UCLA (B.A., English, 1994) and Antioch University (M.F.A., Creative Writing, 2000). She is currently a professor in the English Department at Fullerton College, where she teaches composition, critical thinking, creative writing, and children’s literature. When she’s not teaching or writing, she enjoys playing piano, singing, running track, and playing soccer with her two sons, ages 10 & 13.

Artist: Patrick Quirk has been interested in photography since he was a freshman in high school and began taking photo classes there. It was his teacher Maggie Crail who mentored him and really got him to want to do photo as a career. He is now finishing up the professional photography certificate at Fullerton College with Professor Melody La Montia. He enjoys studio and sport photography the most because it can be challenging but rewarding.